With The Piano Guys’ fixation on transporting a grand piano to the most far-flung corners of the world for their music videos, you’d half expect their Hong Kong concert to be held atop Tsim Sha Tsui’s clock tower or somewhere equally crazy. But on April 18 they were content with delivering their fun classical and pop music mashups at the AsiaWorld-Expo.
Pianist Jon Schmidt and cellist Steven Sharp Nelson kicked off their two-hour concert with the crowd-pleaser Let It Go, mixed with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (Winter). Kids and adults alike were thrilled, and that’s what The Piano Guys are all about: having a good time, whatever your age.
They’re four middle-aged dads with 16 kids between them, but it doesn’t stop them from being fun. Schmidt showed off some tacky dance moves, and Nelson did a skit about the dull cello part in Pachelbel’s Canon in D. “He probably wrote those eight beautiful notes...and then died,” he jokes, before ordering Schmidt to speed the song up by exactly three hundred times. Nelson twirled his bow and strummed the cello like a guitar while Schmidt played the piano lying down, with his feet, chin and even his buttocks. To further prove their randomness, they mashed Bobby McFerrin’s chipper Don’t Worry Be Happy with none other than the eerie theme of The Phantom of the Opera.
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Behind their goofiness, there’s no questioning the intricate skills needed for their complicated music.
The brilliant sound system at the venue allows you to fully appreciate every note Schmidt hammers down and every creak of Nelson’s bow to the fullest detail, especially in the intricately arranged Code Name Vivaldi and Cello Ascends.
As if sensing the audience’s disbelief that such songs can be produced just using a piano and a cello, Nelson demonstrated with a loop pedal in a rendition of U2’s With Or Without You. Nelson owns 21 cellos, and he introduces some of them, by name, to the audience: Carmen Fibre, made almost entirely of carbon fibre, great for percussive sounds; Thor, a steel cello with a gritty sound; and Bruce Lee, an electric guitar made in Hong Kong that “opened up a lot of ADHD opportunities”. A full list of the cellos’ bios, complete with birthplace, weight, hobbies, marital status and favourite food, may be found of The Piano Guys’ website.
Back to the show. There’re some tender moments, too. Just before the intermission, producer Al van der Beek joins the stage to contribute his vocals to Fathers’ Eyes. It’s a rare song where the vocals, piano and cello compliment each other perfectly, none fighting for the spotlight but standing out on its own. Only for the very last two songs do their final member Paul Anderson join in. The four performed One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful on one piano, plucking at the strings and even smacking on the piano chair; and ended with Ants Marching/Ode to Joy.
Classical purists may frown all they like; The Piano Guys sure know their music.